Call them what you will – private storage clouds; distributed, shared file systems; or file system platforms – the bottom line is that these deliver what many companies now want more than ever: cost-effective, easy to manage and easy to deploy storage solutions for their burgeoning data stores. But this is where the similarities can end as the differences between them can be significant, especially when it comes to the abilities of these storage systems to perform and scale. It is these specific concerns that the new HyperFS™ file system from FalconStor is intended to address.
FalconStor’s HyperFS file system breaks new ground in many ways, not the least of which is that it is an entirely new context in which to view FalconStor as a storage provider. Over the last few years, FalconStor has primarily been associated with the data protection market with its suite of products that include its Continuous Data Protector (CDP), File-interface Deduplication System (FDS) and Virtual Tape Library (VTL) software.
HyperFS casts FalconStor in a new light. While FalconStor still plans to support and develop its existing lines of data protection software, the HyperFS file system clearly moves FalconStor into the realm of an enterprise private storage cloud provider for the following two reasons:
- HyperFS file system scales to unprecedented heights. HyperFS is a distributed file system that scales to a supportable 144 PBs. I say supportable because while other file systems such as ZFS claim to be able to scale into the exabytes, that is currently not a supportable configuration since that file system requires 128-bit hardware which is not yet available. HyperFS is however based upon a 64-bit architecture which is supported across the spectrum (operating systems, file system software and hardware) so it can scale to support 144 PBs in a single file system.
- HyperFS file system is designed to perform. HyperFS can do more than just scale – lots of private storage clouds claim to do that – it can also perform. One of the characteristics of a distributed file system (and of HyperFS) is that it can support both NAS and SAN environments by introducing a metadata server to support them.
This metadata server (known as the MDS Server in HyperFS parlance) in essence behaves as a traffic cop, acting as a file server for NAS and a volume manager for SAN for all of the clients (Linux, Windows and Mac) that access the HyperFS storage pool.
Which protocol the client uses will hinge upon the performance requirements of the application it hosts. If the application just needs access to a large storage pool but has less intensive performance requirements, the client can access storage over HyperFS’s NAS (CIFS/NFS) interface.
However if the application on the client needs better performance, an MDS agent is installed on the client that gives the client’s application direct access to the storage. In this environment, the client first checks with the MDS server to find out where the file is located in the HyperFS-managed pool of storage.
Once it receives those instructions from the MDS server, it then accesses that data via standard block protocols such as fibre channel (FC), iSCSI or Infiniband. During its testing and based upon feedback from early adopters, FalconStor has found that organizations can achieve data rates that reach 90-95% of the physical buses of these protocols.
While HyperFS will likely have multiple applications long term in the near term it is specifically targeting the rich media entertainment market as well as the high performance computing (HPC), life sciences and oil and gas industries. These industries are the ones that are currently in the greatest need of storage platforms that can scale, perform and support heterogeneous environments.
HyperFS’s support of the Mac OS is one of the primary reasons that FalconStor anticipates making substantial inroads into the rich media entertainment industry. Since so much of film production is done using the Mac OS, this entire industry is looking for a storage platform that meets this specific need.
FalconStor’s introduction of HyperFS helps to further validate the world of private storage clouds that is rapidly taking shape. However HyperFS is not just another “me too” private storage cloud offering. FalconStor’s tradition of delivering enterprise solutions that will both scale and perform makes the HyperFS file system a platform that merits attention in the months and years to come.